The NLCS is headed for a decisive Game 7 after the Atlanta Braves dropped a 3-1 decision in Game 6 to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The game could not have gotten off to a worse start for Atlanta and Max Fried. Mookie Betts flew out to center to open the game but Corey Seager stayed red hot and jumped on a hanging breaking ball and drove it out to right for his fifth home run of the series. Two pitches later, Justin Turner launched a home run of his own giving the Dodgers back-to-back shots in the first to stake them to a 2-0 lead.
The homers appeared to shake Fried who walked Max Muncy and then allowed a first pitch single to Will Smith. Muncy trucked all the way to third to give Los Angeles runners at the corners with one out. Cody Bellinger followed with a run scoring single that scored Muncy to make it 3-0. With Atlanta’s bullpen throwing, Fried would compose himself and retire the next two hitters on fly outs to escape without any further damage.
It looked like the Braves were ready to answer in the second but it once again ended in disappointment. Travis d’Arnaud, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson led off the frame with three straight singles to load the bases. Austin Riley stepped to the plate and went down swinging on three straight fastballs from Walker Buehler for the first out. Nick Markakis worked a six-pitch at-bat but took a 100 mph fastball down the middle from Buehler for out number two. Cristian Pache then grounded out to end the inning.
Fried settled down after the first and allowed a single in the second and the third but left both runners stranded. Atlanta would threaten again in the third but once again was unable to come away with a timely hit. D’Arnaud led off with a single and moved up to second on a one out hit by Swanson. Riley stepped in and squared up a cutter in the middle of the plate but lined it right at Bellinger in center for the second out. Markakis then grounded to Buehler at the mound who threw to first for the final out.
Atlanta’s rotten luck continued in the fifth. Freeman singled with two outs and Ozuna squared up a curve from Buehler driving it to the wall right center where Betts made an amazing catch to end the inning.
MOOKIE.— MLB (@MLB) October 17, 2020
What. A. Catch. pic.twitter.com/jev5QHfdGf
Buehler would exit after the sixth and was excellent allowing seven hits over six scoreless innings to go along with six strikeouts. Blake Treinen took over in the seventh and promptly served up a leadoff triple to Markakis. After a ground out by Pache, Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled down the right field line to get the Braves on board.
Ronnie + Nick = On the board!#MixItUp pic.twitter.com/xOS8ftKIv6— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) October 17, 2020
Treinen battled back and struck out Freeman and then got Ozuna to fly out harmlessly to right to end the inning.
After the rough start, Fried did a heck of a job keeping the Braves in the game. He was not at his sharpest and had to deal with a lot of baserunners, but he held Los Angeles scoreless after the first inning. He would exit with a runner at first and two outs in the seventh after throwing a career-high 109 pitches. Fried allowed eight hits, four walks and struck out five. Darren O’Day replaced Fried and got Will Smith to ground out on a nice pick by Swanson for the final out of the inning. Chris Martin allowed a hit and a walk in the eighth but got Betts to pop out to end the threat.
Dave Roberts turned the game over to Kenley Jansen in the ninth to face the lower third of Atlanta’s order. Jansen retired Riley and Markakis on two pitches and then got pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval to fly out to left to end the game.
It was a frustrating evening for the Braves at the plate. They had their chances, especially early on, but were unable to take advantage. Swanson finished with three hits while d’Arnaud was 2-for-4. However, Atlanta left eight men on base and were just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Game 7 will be on Sunday night with Ian Anderson facing Tony Gonsolin.